Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bipolar Diagnosis (Part 1)

During the 14 months I've written this blog, I've vacillated back and forth. Sometimes I love writing it and sometimes I don't. Lately, I've begun thinking that once again I need to broaden my interests and move on with my life. I learned more about being bipolar from writing this blog and reading other people's comments than from all the doctors I've met with, and research I've done--for almost 15 years.

But I'm suddenly feeling like the blog is "holding me back" from moving on with my life. In a way that's good because it means that I'm truly healing. Prior to being "the bipolar wellness writer," I was a writer--without any qualifiers. And maybe it's time once again to write about a wide range of interests rather than remaining so narrowly focused.

During this transition--which is what I feel I'm experiencing--I'll continue to write this blog until I decide upon a new direction to pursue. And I've decided to devote my final posts to information and advice for bipolar newbies. In years past, I often have asked myself, "What if...

What if...I had been given better information or had been able to find better information when I was first diagnosed? How would that have changed things for me?

Obviously, I can't change the past, but perhaps I can provide a better future and an easier present for others. So...my posts until the end of the month--which will probably be my last posts on this site--at least for now...will answer some of those "what ifs," and I'll also provide some information and advice that I wish I'd been given.

Caveat: As you all know, I am not a doctor. If I'm providing medical information, I will site different resources. If I'm expressing my personal opinion, I'll let you know. Understand that the very nature of the items I'm including in these final posts represent an opinion of sorts.

Make sure the diagnosis is the correct one. There are sites where you can take tests for mania and depression. I'm including a Depression Screening Test from the Department of Psychiatry at New York University (There are plenty of others, which you can find online.) and a Mania Screening Test from the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance). Read about manic and depressive symptoms. Understand that it takes some people years to get the correct diagnosis, and some people are misdiagnosed.

In terms of a diagnosis, what doctors are doing is trying to do is to match your symptoms to a disease that is quantified in their psychiatric bible, which is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

Bipolar I is described as "characterized as one or more manic or mixed episodes." Bipolar II is characterized by the presence or one or more major depressive episodes, and one or more hypomanic episodes. The Massachusetts General Hospital Bipolar Clinic and Research Department also discusses Cyclothymic Disorder, and Bipolar III (which is not a true category but which they find to be helpful in their research and in dealing with patients).

If I were starting out, I'd read what different organizations and people have to say about this illness. When I was researching the nuts and bolts of bipolarity, I frequently visited the following sites: PsychEducation.org (founded by Jim Phelps, M.D.), Dr. Bob, Ph.D. (he's a pscyhology professor from the University of Michigan), Internet Mental Health (founded by Phillip Long, M.D.), Depression Central (founded by Ivan Goldberg, M.D.), the Black Dog Institute, and the National Institutes of Mental Health (actually I don't agree with a lot of information they provide nor with the way they spend their mental health budget, but within the United States, this is where my tax dollars go), The Stanley Medical Research Institute, and NARSAD.

If anyone has other resources on this topic, other points of view, or other experiences to share, I welcome your input. (I will respond to comments, but I won't answer any medical questions on this series for obvious reasons.)

12 comments:

Nancie said...

Susan, thanks for sharing so much of your thoughts, feelings and experiences with us over the months. It has been a blessing to me and many others, and many things to learn.

It's good to write about other things and to develop other aspects in your life. I am glad you are truly healing and well on the road of wellness!

Thanks for all the useful links. All the best to you in whatever you do. You will be a blessing in your various gifted ways. Press on, dear friend :)

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Thanks Nancie,
You're a true supporter. I'll be at this site for another few weeks before moving on. Thanks for all your kind words!

And I hope you're feeling well!

Susan

Danielle Says Hello said...

This is the same thing I experienced a few months back. I wanted to move beyond 'The Bipolar Diaries' as my illness is not all that I am. However, I wanted people to have access to the 'I know how you feel' information that The Diaries provided. When I presented this to my good friend Heather (see designed my website)she suggested that I have a link to The Diaries on my new site. That way if I decide to provide 'new info' there I can and it won't crowd out my 'creative space' on my new website. It's just a thought. You are an awesome writer and I would love to see you grow and expand out here in the blogosphere ;)

Meredith said...

I've been thinking along similar lines--it's why my blog has lain dormant since October.

Tomorrow is my one-year diagnosis anniversary!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Danielle,
I actually thought of you when I was writing my post last night, knowing that you'd done the same thing. Before I starting blogging, I wrote books and magazine articles as well as grant proposals, brochures, and other pieces.

So, I need to rethink my life goals as well as my writing goals.But, thanks for the input and the compliment. I'm just not sure whether a more comprehensive website will enable me to feel like I have more freedom or will take my energies away from other projects.

I want to maintain some online presence; I'm just not sure what kind, or how much!

Susan

Paula Joy said...

I think it's a great thing when a person can get to that point. And, again, I'm thinking it's about balance. Bipolar is just one facet of the many things that make up who we are, and for a while I had 3 blogs going, all on different parts of my life!! For me, I want to be at the "blog place" where I can share whatever is important to me at that time, be it my piano skills, parenting tips, photography, poetry, my love for coffee, my growing up in a single parent home, or marriage. All that, and more!, make up Paula.
Well, you have helped me in such a short amount of time, and I don't expect anything less between now and your last post!! :) Thanks, Susan!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Meredith,
It hardly seems possible, doesn't it? I remember when you first wrote me to tell me about your new blog. I was so impressed by your maturity and writing ability--and still am.

I imagine it's been a memorable year in so many ways. It would be interesting to know how your life has changed since the diagnosis. If you decide you'd like to write a piece on that, let me know. Since you haven't written on your own blog since October, if you need instant readers, I'd welcome you to guest-write it on my blog.

Just something to think about!

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula,
You're welcome. Yes, we certainly are more than our illness. I'm glad I could help, and I wish you the very best!

Susan

bart said...

susan,

although i've joined the show only recently, i've been impressed by the depth and the scope of your blog...

i can understand your reasons for moving on, after having done an extraordinary amount of work here you need fresh air and i expect you'll go on to bigger and better things...

one question though, are you going to keep this blog "alive", even though you won't be updating it any longer? i, for one, feel that such a valuable body of reference can be of enormous help for anybody and everybody in the future

keep well...

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bart,
Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I will keep the blog alive. And I may find that periodically, I want to post things. Thanks for asking.

Susan

Marissa Miller said...

Wow. Another one that's going bye-bye. I'll be sorry to see your blogging on this site discontinue but I understand. I wonder why so many people feel held back by blogging about mental illness...

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marissa,
All may not be lost. Ever since I've written this post, friends have been suggesting ways to continue blogging--but not feel "stuck." So, I may change my mind. I'm noodling a bunch of ideas!

Thanks for your comment! I'll let you know.

Susan